Whose side are you on anyway?

I thought the nation was divided before, but I hadn’t lived through this November. And here we are, more than a month later, and we’re still reeling. So is the rest of the world. And the only thing that’s certain is how uncertain everything is.

The last year has been about taking sides and switching loyalties and who you support and why. And once everyone made up their mind about all that, it turned into a mud-slinging event, where everyone who disagreed with everyone else made an extreme effort to offend as many people as possible. The last year has been one side against the other, and I’m not sure anyone actually won.

People are really good at taking sides down here. It’s a common topic of conversation, especially around election time. Are you on Donald Trump’s side? Are you on Hillary Clinton’s side? No? Then you must be on a third-party candidate’s side, right? Which one? Who’s side are you on?

If you side with someone, that means you agree with them. That means you believe the same things they believe and support the same causes they support. You stand for what they represent. Right? Isn’t that how it works?

That’s the thought that kicked me in the head during a worship service at my church a few weeks ago. “Our God” by Chris Tomlin is one of those classic worship songs that I never get tired of singing, and I love the way my church sings it. Loud and bright and joyful, because it’s so very true. But as the words of the bridge left my mouth, I stopped.

In case you aren’t familiar with the song, the bridge lyrics are: “And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us? And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?”

Bold words. Powerful words. And true, because they’re based on Scripture. Romans 8:31 says, “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” And if you think about it, who wouldn’t want God on your side?

This is God we’re talking about. Maybe I speak for myself, but having God on my side sounds like a pretty fabulous idea. I mean, if God is on my side, that means I’m right about everything.

If God is for us, that means He supports us. He agrees with us. He stands for what we represent. Right? As we understand the concept of taking sides, isn’t that what it would mean?

That’s how we live. That’s how we treat God sometimes. We look at Him like He’s some genie in the clouds, who exists solely to fulfill our wishes. He’s all-loving, and that means He supports us in every path we take. And He wouldn’t ever correct us or discipline us or discourage us from making a choice He doesn’t like. He’s a good God, after all.

Personally, I’m not sure a god who lets us get away with everything can be classified as good. Children who are allowed to get away with everything aren’t usually liked. Parents who let their kids get away with everything aren’t usually considered role models. So why do we think God is different?

But God is on our side. That means He agrees with us.

Maybe not. See that tiny little two-letter word, if? That’s a huge word. If. It means the statement that follows may not be true. It means the statement that follows is conditional.

If God is for us. If God is on our side. If means He may not be.

So what do you have to do to get God on your side? What price do we have to pay? What task do we have to accomplish?

The answer isn’t easy, but it’s very simple.

If you want God on your side, you need to be on His side.

See, God isn’t overwhelmed by our greatness. Compared to Him, we’re less than fleas. He doesn’t play favorites (Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11), and our fantastic attempts to doing good don’t impress Him (Isaiah 64:6). We can’t convince God to be on our side through our own merit.

And, frankly, why would God want to be on our side? What can we do for Him? What can we offer Him? He’s God! Maker of the Universe. Inventor of gravity. Creator of quasars and feathers, to quote singer Chris Rice. He can do anything. He can be anywhere. He knows everything. Time has no meaning to Him.

We are nothing. And the only thing we can offer Him is our hearts.

Exodus 32:26
So he stood at the entrance to the camp and shouted, “All of you who are on the Lord’s side, come here and join me.” And all the Levites gathered around him.

Who’s on God’s side? That’s the question we should be asking. Who represents what God stands for in our culture? Who agrees with God? Who supports God?

There are only two sides that matter, God’s side, and the world’s side. I don’t have a side. Neither do you. Neither does the President or your senator or your town mayor or your teacher or your annoying little brother or sister.

Whose side are you on?

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to choose sides. But this world isn’t perfect. And we do. But when it comes to who you support or what you choose to do or how you choose to do it, you only have two choices for what side to take. You can either choose to do what the world says is right, or you can choose to do what God says is right. There’s no middle ground. There’s no third party.

If you want God to be on your side, you have to be on His side first.

Rights, privileges, and where God fits in politics

Guess what I did yesterday? I got to voice my opinion on who should be running the government of the state of Kansas…with a paper ballot. That’s one of the awesome things about living in a small town. You still get the paper ballot option, although there’s a touch screen. But not a whole lot of people trust it yet.

I’m so burnt out on the whole political scene right now. Just being honest, it was kind of a chore to go vote. But I come from a voting family. We vote. So I voted.

And I try to remember, whether I’m excited or just exhausted by it, that voting is something to be grateful for. One thing we all need to remember about our rights and privileges as citizens of the United States: If we take our rights for granted, one day they won’t be rights anymore.

Currently, we have the right to vote. We have the right to speak our minds about who should be in charge in government. Having the right to make that declaration means we can speak our mind without fear of repercussions (generally speaking).

But how many people ignore that right? How many people treat it like something that doesn’t matter?

There could come a day where our right to vote becomes a privilege. And privileges can be taken away. That’s why it’s important not to take advantage of it.

I’ve met people who don’t think faith has any part in politics. Most of the time, I understand what they’re saying. But at the same time, we need to consider how Jesus viewed politics. He didn’t ignore them. He had a definite opinion on how we were supposed to handle politics.

I Voted Sticker from this year's election

I Voted Sticker from this year’s election

Today’s verses are Matthew 22:15-21.

Then the Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” he said. “Why are you trying to trap me? Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed him a Roman coin, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

“Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

If you talk to some people, they think He should have answered that the church has no place in politics! Or the opposite. Politics has no place in the church!

It’s a touchy subject. But just think about it for a minute. If God wants us to live whole, genuine, real lives, why do we try to compartmentalize them? We get so upset at people who are different at home or work than they are at church. So why is that different with your political beliefs and your faith? Shouldn’t your political beliefs agree with your faith? And vice versa?

No matter what your belief system or your political affiliation, you have to recognize that America is a unique and amazing country–a blessing, a gift, a privilege. Not perfect (oh, boy, not perfect). And we’ve struggled–are still struggling–with finding that balance between being free and being good. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up. That doesn’t mean America isn’t worth it.

So come on, Christ-follower. Get back in the fight. And don’t fall back on the statement that God has no place in politics. I honestly believe if we brought God back into politics, maybe politicians would actually get something done.

Don’t take your freedom for granted. Not many others in the world have the same freedom we do. In many places of the world, people are punished or killed for speaking their minds.

Maybe there are no good candidates. I get that. Maybe you don’t agree with anyone’s positions. I get that too.

One of the awesome things about this country is that if you don’t agree, you can stand up. You can do something about it. If you don’t like any of the candidates running, maybe you should run instead. Have you ever thought about that?

We have radical freedom in this country. Unlimited opportunity by law, unlimited potential through faith.

Don’t waste it.